It’s easy to see why recent photos of Jeff Bezos peacocking at a “crazy disco party” went viral.
In the early days of Amazon, its founder came off as a nebbish nerd, seemingly always photographed in a state of business casual like a harmless IT guy. But Bezos’s transformation into his “final boss form” looked complete at a lavish party on New Year’s Eve, as he donned heart-shaped sunglasses, a skintight $1,000 button-up shirt, and white jeans while posing with girlfriend Lauren Sánchez aboard a Swiss billionaire’s yacht to party with Drake and Leonardo DiCaprio.
Bezos’s Instagram post prompted many social media users to note the uncanny resemblance between the world’s second-richest man in real life and the world’s third-richest man in the DC Universe. “Swole Jeff Bezos is giving me big Lex Luthor vibes,” wrote one Twitter user.
That’s true, but it’s not just Bezos’s physical appearance of a bald, buff, aging white guy that evokes Superman’s archnemesis. The former Amazon CEO’s world-altering career also looks strikingly similar to Luthor’s turn as a conniving top executive.
In the mid-1980s, DC Comics gave Lex Luthor a Wall Street makeover that was a perfect fit for the Ronald Reagan years. Originally conceived as a mad-scientist type, the 1986 series Man of Steel recast Luthor as a billionaire businessman in the mold of Donald Trump or Ted Turner, according to DC Database. This corporate raider version of the supervillain was made the CEO of LexCorp, one of the fictional world’s largest multinational corporations.
Like Amazon, Luthor’s Metropolis-based firm grew by shrewdly building monopolies and practicing vampire capitalism, sucking the profits out of smaller companies it purchased. Since the mid-’90s, Amazon has upended traditional retail and grown an increasingly powerful monopoly on the online delivery of retail goods, while expanding into consumer technology, entertainment and media, and brick-and-mortar stores like Whole Foods.
Initially, LexCorp operated more like Warren Buffett’s holding company Berkshire Hathaway, focusing on acquiring firms in key established industries like travel, banking, and media. Luthor purchased struggling airlines and then bought out an oil company (and renamed it LexOil) when rising fuel costs threatened to cut into profits. Like Amazon, LexCorp also expanded into broadcasting, gobbling up TV stations, a satellite company, and briefly owned Clark Kent’s Daily Planet newspaper — until he dumped it after seeing print journalism’s measly profit margins tumble. (Don’t look now, Bezos, but the Washington Post’s profits are down)
Luthor later diversified his company by investing in global real estate in wealthy countries ranging from Germany to Saudi Arabia and creating subsidiaries in tech, robotics, and city services — even an East Coast craft beer franchise called Koul-Brau. At its peak, according to DC, LexCorp either directly or indirectly employed nearly two-thirds of Metropolis’s 11 million people, resembling a supercharged version of real-life Seattle, where Amazon dominates the workforce and much of downtown’s skyline.
Luthor’s estimated net worth is $750 billion, a good chunk more than Bezos’s mere $200 billion. Yet even Luthor might marvel at the ruthlessness with which Bezos operated Amazon as it evolved from upstart online bookseller to an omnipresent megacompany wealthier than 92 percent of the world’s countries.
Bezos employed all kinds of dirty tricks, like underpricing goods to drive competitors out of business, playing hardball with third-party sellers, extracting incentives and subsidies from state governments for job creation, and forcing warehouse workers to endure low pay and atrocious conditions. And he saw his wealth balloon by tens of billions of dollars during the COVID-19 pandemic as lockdowns forced people to turn to online shopping and Amazon services, before he formally stepped down from his role on July 5.
But if anything, Bezos’s post-Amazon life makes him seem like a comic book villain more than ever. These days, he’s getting superfit, flying into outer space in his own rocket ships while donning cowboy hats, and investing in a creepy Silicon Valley start-up that promises to reverse the body’s aging process. He even bought Maui’s most expensive property, an estimated $78 million, fourteen-acre compound with a private beach, a Hawaiian estate that might even make Barack Obama blush — and one that could easily double as an evil secret lair.
Is it just a coincidence that in The Boys, Amazon Prime’s gritty superhero show, the caped Superman-type (Homelander) is portrayed not as Earth’s mightiest protector, but as the antagonist with a soft spot for fascism? Probably. But given the uncanny parallels between Bezos and Luthor, maybe someone should put an intergalactic call out to Superman’s home planet Krypton just in case.